Fort Saskatchewan’s beaver families are keeping busy this summer doing what comes naturally – raising their young, chewing trees and generally trying to keep out of everyone’s way.
Signs of beaver activity, including felled trees and gnawed stumps, are a common sight in riverside towns and cities across Alberta. The large rodents—at up to 77 pounds, the largest in Canada—make themselves at home anywhere there is suitable water and food.
“There are beautiful tall trees along the river that would be very attractive for dam and lodge building material and food supplies for beavers,” Mark Heckbert, provincial wildlife conflict specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks, said of the local river valley.
“And so like many river communities in Alberta, you can expect beavers to be found throughout the open water periods in the community, probably coming up into the areas that are closest to the river foraging for food and bringing those building materials back into the river."
The famously Canadian animals have long, chisel-like teeth that never stop growing. They use their large flat tails as a rudder for swimming, to prop themselves up while sitting and, with a slap on the water, to warn other beavers of danger.
Beavers also have a reputation for making a pest of themselves, sometimes taking down significant numbers of trees and damming up waterways.
"For the most part, beavers go about living their life and don't cause too much grief. Although on occasion their actions of creating their habitat of deeper water by damming up streams causes localized flooding,” Heckbert said.
Last month a Fort Saskatchewan pit bull needed stitches after encountering a trio of beavers in the water near a local trail. According to Heckbert, although bites can happen when pets come into direct contact with beavers, attacks are uncommon.
“The best advice under those circumstances if you were to encounter a beaver is to keep pets leashed and to avoid approaching too closely and give that beaver an escape route back to the water," Heckbert advised.
KILOINJURED 2A Fort Saskatchewan dog was injured after a tangle with a beaver.
A typical beaver lodge is home to a breeding pair and a number of offspring. Beaver moms typically give birth to three or four kits every spring, with the new babies joining siblings still hanging around from the year before.
“They're cute little suckers when they're born,” Heckbert said. “They're fully furred, eyes open, little tiny flat black tails.”
In wilderness settings, beavers are vulnerable to attacks from wolves and black bears. In developed areas, humans and their vehicles are the biggest danger to the animals. Beaver hunting and trapping are allowed year round on privately owned property in Alberta. 

"Beavers are quite fascinating creatures," Heckbert added. "They really are a perfect Alberta ambassador. They are industrious, creative, and persistent. And those are all qualities that Albertans are known for."
A beaver going about life in the North Saskatchewan River in Fort Saskatchewan.

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